Monday, July 19, 2004

I know this guy John who used to work as a manager for a supermarket down in Torrance, supervising all the workers, from the cashiers and deli counter people inside to the bagboys and shopping cart collectors milling in and out of the parking lot.

There was an extra outdoor area John had to oversee in autumn -- the store had a small pumpkin patch, so customers could buy themselves a jack-o-lantern or whatever. John noticed that when things were slow, one his employees working this section -- a young teenage boy -- would sneak a pumpkin into the outdoor Port-a-Potty with him. Later, he’d come back out and furtively toss the thing onto the pile of old, damaged, cracked pumpkins -– the ones the supermarket couldn’t sell.

This went on several days in a row, until finally John pulled the kid aside and asked him what the hell he was doing. At first, the teenager denied any wrong-doing, but John had seen him, so he couldn’t lie. "Look," John told him. "You’re not going to get in trouble, just tell me what’s going on."

Embarrassed, the kid admitted, he was taking a sheet-rock knife, cutting a hole in the pumpkin, and using it to, y’know, get himself off. John just looked at him, trying to not to register any kind of expression. The boy got this idea from his older brother, who would take a cantaloupe and heat it up in the microwave first, so that it would be nice and warm before he –-

Okay, okay, John understood. ‘Nuff said.

He told the kid that he should pay for the pumpkins which he, uh, violated, and simply stop doing it... at least at work. That was it. The kid was relieved that he wasn’t fired, and more importantly, that John kept his little secret.

Could you imagine the ridicule he’d get from other kids? Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Beater. Pumpin’ the pumpkin lately? What are you, out of your gourd? Or just your garden-variety pervert? Dude, you're supposed to pop your CHERRY! Look, Charlie Brown, it’s the Great Pumpkin Fucker!

John told me this story as something that perhaps I would wanna write about. Every now and then someone hears that I’m a writer, and they say they have this awesome story. And usually, I find the story isn’t really that awesome, but perhaps the person thinks so because it happened to him or her. Or maybe it is a great tale, but they’re just not relating it well. And if they are, then I’ll suggest they write it themselves. John said, no, you go ahead and use it if you want. I found it compelling – and disgusting – enough to take a shot at it. He said, oh, wait, there’s more:

A few days after Halloween, the employees were gathered around. One of the cashiers had baked pumpkin pie for everyone. She used her own recipe, made from scratch. The secret, she said, wasn’t using fresh pumpkins; when they're overripe, they have extra flavor. So where did she get her produce? From the discarded pile of old, cracked, damaged, and holey -- deflowered -- pumpkins.

Mmmm, the employees were all remarking how delicious and creamy the pie was. Did everyone get a piece?

John and the teenager exchanged a look. "Uh, no thanks."


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